With a second surge of COVID-19 infections underway in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker and hospital officials on Tuesday outlined the steps they are planning to treat the growing number of people with the disease, including plans for the re-establishment of emergency field hospitals.
Since Labor Day, coronavirus cases are up nearly 300% and COVID-19 hospitalizations are up about 200%, Baker said, which has driven occupancy at Massachusetts hospitals to 67% overall and 50% at the intensive care unit level. The state's COVID-19 trends are headed in the "wrong direction and show no signs of changing," he said.
"COVID-19 has now been with us for the better part of a year and we've learned a lot about how to address this terrible virus. In addition to building a massive testing and tracing infrastructure, we've also executed on plans to better manage our health care systems during a pandemic," Baker said. "Our experience from last spring shows that creating enough space to safely treat COVID-19 patients and other patients throughout our health care system is the single most important aspect we have in navigating the pandemic as safely as possible, and being prepared for every scenario is critical."
Baker was joined Tuesday by Jody White, CEO of Lowell General Hospital, and Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, to outline steps the health care world is preparing to take as more COVID-19 patients are admitted. Baker said his administration is planning for the return of field hospitals like the ones established this spring in Worcester, Boston, on Cape Cod and elsewhere.
More details on the location of the new field hospitals will come later this week, the governor said.
Baker also said that Massachusetts hospitals will be able to convert 400 acute care beds into ICU beds, if needed.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said the administration and hospital community are trying to avoid having to cancel elective procedures and want people to feel comfortable getting care for something other than COVID-19 at a hospital. There were fewer than 3,500 people treated for something other than COVID-19 at Massachusetts hospitals in the third week of April and that today the hospitals are treating 7,000 people for something other than COVID-19, she said.